THE controversial loss of 250 New Look jobs in Weymouth contributed to the fashion retailer’s falling sales figures, the company has admitted.

It said that the loss of talented staff when its buying, design and merchandising departments were moved to London contributed to problems that led to a 40 per cent fall in profits.

The company said it wanted to be in the fashion capital of the world and was having problems attracting the right staff to Weymouth.

The disappointing figures follow news that dozens more posts at the firm’s Mercery Road offices are set to go.

Like-for-like sales fell by 7.1 per cent and operating profits fell to £98million from £162.7million a year earlier.

Yesterday, New Look refused to comment on job losses because of a ‘legal process’.

The company said moving its buying team from its head office in Weymouth to London in 2009 was ‘partly responsible’ for some of the disruption and had caused it to lose some of its talent.

As the fashion firm’s annual results were revealed, New Look said that severing many of its links with Weymouth contributed to the sales slump.

New Look also admitted it had allowed its pricing to become uncompetitive and said its like-for-like sales fall marked a drastic reversal from the five per cent rise in the previous year.

A New Look spokeswoman said: “There were about 600 people based in Weymouth and about half of these people didn’t go to London. They had to recruit these people again.

“The disruption would involve the recruitment and the moving process.

“We wanted to move to London because we thought that’s where we should be.

“The bottom line is that if you are serious about wanting to be in fashion, London is the fashion capital of the world and Weymouth isn’t.

“I see the point of the people who didn’t go, they could have gone but they chose to stay in Weymouth.”

Former Matalan chief executive Alistair McGeorge has been appointed as New Look’s new executive chairman and is undertaking a strategic review.

The New Look spokeswoman added: “The easiest way to interpret fashion is to interpret it in a young sense.

“New Look thinks it has lost the edge with their more mature demographic.

“I think it’s a short-term suffering. The business has grown but there have been mistakes that have been made.

“Mr McGeorge has been in the company for four weeks and he has to clear up what’s a bit of a mess.”

The new executive chairman said the annual results reflected the tough economic climate and ‘internal disruption’.

New Look had allowed its prices to ‘drift upwards’ which undermined its competitiveness and relative value positioning in the marketplace, he added.

Mr McGeorge said: “We need to refocus, deliver great product and remind people of what makes us truly different.

“I don’t see it getting any easier this year for the sector, but there’s a lot we can do to reposition ourselves as the New Look everyone knows and loves.”

'Brutal cuts'

It is believed that posts in the property, human resources, maintenance and IT departments are all affected by the recent job cuts.

One person closely associated with the company said: “It has been petty brutal. I understand that 10 posts out of 40 in the property division are to go.

“I believe that all the staff affected by the move have had to sign compromise agreements while the process is ongoing.

“It’s sad that a company which had such success in Weymouth is now struggling after it moved so many jobs out of the town.”

A New Look spokesman refused to confirm how many staff were affected citing ‘legal reasons’.